Why the Left Needs You to be Helpless

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Tue, Dec 15 - 7:00 am EST | 2 years ago by
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    Riposte Modernism - Helpless

    The Left often tries to present itself as optimistic. Maybe once it was. But that was decades ago, in the era of JFK and MLK. When you think about the Left today, you think of college students feeling traumatized at the slightest thing, demanding safe spaces. You think of “environmentalists” who preach inaccurate prophecies of doom at us while trying to strip away our quality of life. You think of people talking about our Western values as though we were the worst people in the history of mankind rather than the best, as though we were the worst human-rights abusers rather than the greatest champions of human rights who ever lived.

    What happened?

    There was once a tradition of liberalism in Europe and North America that was fundamentally democratic, optimistic and individualist. It’s what we call classical liberalism. It believed in government as something that could help people to raise themselves up. It imagined people as strong, and that if they had a fair chance (with things like education and civil rights) could raise themselves up and succeed on their own effort. Even if you think that idea is fundamentally flawed you can still admire its motives.

    But that type of liberalism hardly exists anymore. The classical liberals mostly died out. You still see a few of them in the very fringes of the Left, ostracized by their own movement. Instead, the liberalism we see today is one that is anti-democratic, pessimistic and collectivist. It was a product of 50-plus years of careful subversion (starting in academia, and moving on to the rest of society) first by Marxists but then by the post-modernists.

    The modern Left doesn’t believe anyone can raise themselves up. In fact, it’s based on the idea that everyone is totally helpless to do anything about who they are or what happens to them. This is true in both economics and social liberalism. In both cases, it supposes that everyone is a powerless victim of their circumstances.

    Let’s look at the economics first. The important thing to know about the leftist mindset here is that they assume a world where no one is able to generate value for themselves. To dumb that down a bit: they think that whatever you have you don’t deserve, and whatever you lack isn’t your own responsibility. Since there’s no legitimate way of generating value, anything you’ve got must have been gotten by taking something away from someone else.

    This is still a relatively recent idea in the U.S. (at least in the mainstream), but it has been around since forever in Latin America. It’s how they blame all their enormous screw-ups on the Americans, on the U.K., on “imperialismo”, on “capitalismo”, on anything but themselves. If you want some reading during your holiday season, let me recommend Mendoza, Montaner and Vargas Llosa’s book The Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot, where they go into detail about this. You’re going to need it because this idiocy is already in your own country now.

    The basic idea is that anyone who is wealthy is an “oligarch” who has “stolen” their wealth from poor people, who are in no way responsible for their own poverty. Someone who owns a yacht and a summer home has stolen those things from the 99 percent.

    But this means that the middle class people, yacht-less but owning a house and a car, have also stolen what they own from people without any cars! Clearly, the guy who doesn’t own a car but can afford an iPhone has stolen that iPhone from those who have no iPhone; and you can work this ladder of bullcrap all the way down to say that a homeless beggar who has shoes is a vampire that parasitically stole away the shoes from someone who has none. You can apply this to people and to countries (of course, all the United States’ success has nothing to do with a rational constitution and a strong sense of national industriousness, it’s because they “stole” their wealth from the third world).

    For this idea to work, the Left NEEDS you to be a victim. The American Dream has to be a lie, and no one can be allowed to make their way up in life by their own efforts. If you study and work hard and save money and avoid debt, and end up better off, it would mean their whole conclusion that only massive government intervention can help you (by redistributing some of that stolen wealth) is nonsense. So people today are not encouraged to work harder, they’re encouraged to whine for more stuff. Hiring quotas are good but merit-based raises are the enemy. In school we want kids to learn that they need to do everything in a group, and give extra attention to the dumb kids and pass all the lazy kids anyways – but we definitely don’t want to let the smart kids get ahead on their own efforts. Competition is unfair because some people will work harder and do better at it than others. We need to take away people’s freedom to be excellent because that’s stealing from people who think they can’t be.

    In the arena of society it’s exactly the same. Your “rights” can’t come from your own freedom as an individual. They are something given to you or taken from you by the Collective. You can’t decide what you are: you are either privileged or a victim, and the right people will tell you which one it is.

    The Left sees everything as systems of oppression: Patriarchy, Systemic Racism, Rape Culture or just Western Civilization itself. Everything that happens to you is because of your assigned identity on the victimhood hierarchy and we are all trapped in perpetuating it. No matter what you do, you can’t overcome your status.

    Someone who believes in personal freedom and responsibility, therefore, is someone who perpetuates the oppression of others by presenting the lie that someone can be responsible for themselves! And worse, in this narcissistic age, they commit the ultimate sin: shaming those people who are convinced they can’t possibly be responsible for anything.

    It’s pretty incredible for me, as a rational person, to hear so many people saying “I can’t change my life” and seeing themselves as stuck in the economic situation they’re in. But at least there, it is possible that mitigating factors can make it really hard to change your life. I won’t pretend that it’s just as easy for a single mom in her forties who never finished high school to get out of a cycle of debt as it would be for an unmarried college grad in her twenties with no kids. It’s never impossible, but it is sometimes hard.

    But when I hear people say “I can’t help who I am,” that’s where I see just how toxic the influence of the post-modern Left has become on our culture. A whole generation has been taught that nothing is real and that nothing is more important than your feelings. If whatever you feel is all that matters, then its easy to imagine you can’t do anything to change your circumstances. If you have no greater purpose, if nothing matters more than what you are instead of what you do, then something as cheap and small as your superficial identity is all you ever are or could be. And then anyone else who dares to define themselves in life by what they do, anyone who is more than just their category, is a threat to your sorry little self-worth. They are engaging in aggression against you because they’ve freed themselves and you have not. They’ve realized that “who you are” is the one thing you can always help. Your identity as an individual isn’t something a Collective needs to give you, it’s the only thing that depends totally on your personal will.

    But that’s no use to the regressive Left. It wants to always see people as victims of personal or global circumstance and incapable of doing anything for themselves. They need a Collective to help them. In that kind of context, freedom is just a dangerous illusion.

    Libertarianism is the opposite of this poison. The Regressive Left depends on people being helpless and unfree. Libertarianism depends on people being empowered and free. Not just any one person, though. It’s not enough just for me to be free – because my complete freedom depends on the freedom of others. Unlike the point of view of the Left, I don’t believe other people’s freedom is privilege that steals from my own anymore than I believe other people’s wealth is stolen or stops me from seeking my own wealth.

    The more freedom I give everyone around me to fulfill their true will, to be the most they can be, to do what they really want, to work and better themselves, to eat and drink what they want to, to say what they want, to watch what they want, to love who they want, to own their own bodies, to die how they want, and to own their own destiny, the MORE (rather than less) that gives me those same freedoms.

    I don’t want a society where everyone is equally helpless. I WANT a meritocracy; even though in many cases there will be people who will beat me and turn out to have more merit at many things, because their ability to triumph will still ultimately aid MY ability to triumph in the long run.

    None of us are helpless, unless we let ourselves be convinced we are.

    Photo by shvili / Getty Images

    Kasimir Urbanski doesn’t write on a specific subject; he’s EveryJoe’s resident maniac-at-large. A recovering Humanities academic and world-traveler, he now lives in South America and is a researcher of fringe religion, eastern philosophy, and esoteric consciousness-expansion. In his spare time he writes tabletop RPGs, and blogs about them at therpgpundit.blogspot.com. Follow Kasimir on Twitter @KasimirUrbanski.

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      • RCal

        I think a few things are at work here.

        First, critical thinking is hard. It requires habits of the mind – rigour, detachment, and logic – that don’t come naturally to most people. In our efforts to expand empathy, we’ve suppressed the bare-knuckle rigour of rational debate not only in high school, but in our institutes of higher learning. In the absence of an arena for critical debate based on reason and empiricism, even our educated have fallen back on lazy and emotional thinking

        No longer equipped with the tools bequeathed us by the enlightenment, the left has fallen into the same trap of Manichean thinking that many on the right are stuck in. Anyone opposed to you must be bad – so bad that they’re not worth engaging with. And everything else they believe must be bad too. So the world divides neatly into the good us and the bad them. How to define the good? We’re the ones who are victims. And the bad are the oppressors. So all you need to know to establish a clear-cut moral hierarchy is who the powerful are and who the weak are. And in that hierarchy, the weak always have the moral high ground. So, since the USA and the West are strong, then they are bad. And anyone who opposes the USA and the West must be good. See how easy it is?

        Then we have the twin myths of the blank slate and naturalism. We are naturally good, and therefore anything bad in us is comes from bad social structures and evil people who are in power. Since we can eliminate all society’s ills by changing those structures, then any of the ills that persist in this world are because those in power profit from them. It’s all so tidy.

        It’s also nonsense, as even the most zealous and dogmatic leftist much recognize when they look around them at the people they actually know. When they see that even with siblings raised in the same environment and with the same privilege (or lack of privilege), there are dramatic differences in life outcomes. Children born to affluence who remain hopeless basket cases while their siblings find success and happiness. Those born to difficult circumstances who start businesses and build a secure and comfortable life. People who piss away everything given to them and others who seize the most meagre opportunity and run with it. We see this every day. But it does not penetrate the shield of dogma that the new left armour themselves with.

        • Kasimir Urbanski

          Marvelously put. Thank you so much for commenting! Please share the article if you can! Tell the people!

        • Silva

          I consider most of this true, but I’m pretty sure siblings are almost never raised actually in the same conditions: are you the older or the younger one? The attractive one, or the sick one? And, of course: male or female (nowadays, this might not always play out to the woman’s disadvantage; I’m pretty sure it still turns out “fair” in pretty much no case)?

      • akulkis

        Two words: Critical Theory.
        This was cooked up at the Frankfort School before those Jewish commie jerks got run out of Germany, and unfortunately, found refuge here in the U.S.
        Anyways, the theory of Critical Theory is this — if you criticize a society enough, then eventually, its members will think it’s not worth defending. That’s what we have right now… the school books were filled with critical theory — criticizing anything and everything about our country, its history, and its culture. Now, we have a generation which is totally demoralized, because they have never been taught about ANYTHING worthwhile about this country.
        And it’s not a new phenomenon.
        My 5th Grade teacher, in the opening months of 1976, started reading a book to us in class, over the course of a couple of weeks… called “My Brother Sam is Dead.” The plot of MBSiD is basically: The narrator is a soldier in the continental army. His brother is wrongly accused of murder, and worse yet, wrongly convicted — and not by the British, but my fellow colonists, and is hung. The end.
        It’s not surprising that… her last name is Stern, and that only a couple months earlier, during the school’s annual Christmas activities(*), she begrudgingly played along, but only by her class studying Isreal and Hannakuh (which, if you know anything about Judaism, is considered to be a very minor holiday by Jews).
        So, it’s not surprising that she went full-retard with actually practicing critical theory in her 5th grade classroom. Oh, she also gave me better grades that what I had actually earned — basically, because she thought I was Jewish, too.
        (*) during which, each teacher hosts a class on a different country, and for and for a couple hours/week, we would learn about the Christmas traditions in that country, make Christmas decorations consistent with that country, and for the big open-house night, cook up or bake various foods associated with Christmas in that country,

      • Charles

        The right’s recent crusade against trigger warnings and safe spaces is nonsense. Schools are not unconditional free speech zones, and never have been, and shouldn’t be. The same is true for bars, restaurants, offices, etc. Whoever runs the place has a responsibility to shut down speech that is disruptive and intimidating. The Yale Record articulates this point well:
        http://yalerecord.org/2015/11/16/if-our-free-speech-isnt-in-jeopardy-then-why-wont-my-ta-let-me-spend-all-of-class-yelling-fuck-brian-at-brian/

        The left doesn’t believe that the American dream is a lie; in fact, the entire platform of the left is built around the American dream. However, the left also understands hard work alone is often not enough to escape generational poverty. Wealth redistribution — such as subsidized food, housing, education, and healthcare — is a tool for breaking positive feedback loops and helping people become productive, self-sufficient members of society.

        For example, one in five American children faces food and/or housing insecurity. When a child doesn’t have enough food to eat, or a safe place to sleep, it affects their ability to perform in school. This, in turn, sabotages their ability to secure gainful employment later in life.

        Your comparisons between the American left and Latin American socialism are dishonest. For a developed nation like the US, socialized college and healthcare aren’t dangerous experiments; they’re the standard. They’re good investments. And we can afford to make them.

        • Kasimir Urbanski

          Oh yes, Yale, the place where students recently eagerly lined up to sign a petition to abolish the 1st Amendment. Great example.

          http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/428720/yale-students-are-caught-tape-petitioning-repeal-first-amendment

          Universities and other places of public discourse are not the same as bars or restaurants.
          And if anything, comparing the censorious university leftists to Venezuelan Chavistas is too mild. Recently they look more like the Red Brigades in China’s cultural revolution. We’ve transformed the place of intellectual discourse and challenging ideas into an institute for thought control and totalitarian political indoctrination.

        • Charles

          You seem to agree that a bartender has the right to admonish someone for intimidating and disrupting other patrons. Why do you believe university leadership should be stripped of that right?

          In China’s cultural revolution, intellectuals were attacked and sent into forced labor. We’re not seeing anything like that — we’re seeing students fumbling for a way to push back against systemic racism. A more appropriate parallel would be anti-incitement laws in modern-day Germany.

          I’m sure you’re against those laws — and, in fact, I think there’s some interesting discussion to be had there. It’s disappointing that your arguments seem aimed at firing up your right-wing readership, rather than engaging in rational argument.

        • Kasimir Urbanski

          A university is publicly funded.

          So far we’ve had students publicly shaming intellectuals, attacking them for having the ‘wrong ideas’. That’s how the Maoists started. At least a few have already been driven from their work.

          ‘Systemic racism’ is as much bullshit as the ‘proletariat class struggle’; an excuse for little monsters to become totalitarians and silence opposition.

        • Charles

          Some universities are publicly funded. Yale isn’t.

          As they did in the 1960s, student protests are pressuring institutions to address racial issues. This has included calls for resignations. When confronted about his use of disruptive tactics decades ago, MLK noted: “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.”

          Per Gallup, the majority of Americans didn’t support interracial marriage until 1997; one in ten still doesn’t. One in four agrees with Trump that we should bar Muslims — including US citizens abroad — from entry to the country. Depending on how the question is phrased, 20%-40% of Americans think blacks are less intelligent and less trustworthy than whites.
          http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2015/jun/29/juan-williams/juan-williams-whites-think-blacks-are-less-intelli/

          These people make hiring choices and sit on juries. They make up a system that is racist. What terminology would you prefer instead of ‘systemic racism’?

        • Kasimir Urbanski

          This is a load of bullshit. In the 1960s, students were fighting for MORE free speech. The students today are fighting to TAKE AWAY free speech. They are the totalitarians of the age.

        • Charles

          You’re not talking about freedom of speech; you’re talking about freedom from consequences. Schools have no obligation to sponsor speech they judge to be hateful. They have every right to kick people off their property for saying hateful things.

          And what about these students’ freedom of speech? Whether they’re correct or not, they have every right to advocate for policy changes. It seems that you believe everyone should shut up and accept the status quo.

          Was Lincoln a totalitarian for abolishing an individual’s freedom to own slaves? Was MLK a totalitarian for lobbying against segregation — a business owner’s freedom to treat whites and blacks differently?

          My freedom to swing my fist ends at my neighbor’s right to not be punched. In issues of race, white Americans have historically been REALLY SHITTY at understanding where that boundary should be. At the end of the 1940s — peacetime, strong economy, segregation — only a few percent of Americans thought racism was the most important issue in American politics.
          http://www.gallup.com/poll/180257/major-problem-race-relations-sharply-rises.aspx

        • Kasimir Urbanski

          No, Lincoln wasn’t a totalitarian. On the contrary, the southern slaveowners were often totalitarian in aggressively stopping people from speaking out against slavery. That’s the problem with thinking your cause is ‘right’ enough to merit silencing others: everyone thinks their cause is right, and if you claim permission to silence them, they can claim the same permission to silence YOU.

          None of the people mentioned by name were totalitarians because none of them advocated for SILENCING people who thought different from them. That’s what totalitarianism means; the difference between authoritarianism and totalitarianism is that authoritarianism demands that you do what they tell you (and nothing else is allowed), and totalitarianism demands that you think what they want you to think (and no other thoughts are allowed).

          Absolutely, your freedom to swing your fist ends at your neighbour’s face. But no one here is saying you’re not allowed to stop people from punching other people, you’re saying that you should be allowed to decide who gets to SPEAK and who doesn’t. What a person says doesn’t give you a bloody nose, it only at most offends you, and you DO NOT HAVE A RIGHT TO NOT BE OFFENDED.

          I believe that students have every right to protest (peacefully and in a way that doesn’t disrupt those who do not consent to participation) any damn thing they like, whether it’s real outrages or invented nonsense they’re too spoiled and pampered to realize they’re being naive idiots about. I will defend the right of anyone to say something that I disagree with.

          When you refuse to do the same, you tread dangerous ground, because of course not everyone thinks like you; if you change the game to say “censorship is OK for the right reasons”, you’re going to let other totalitarians who stand for the exact opposite you do jump in and take away YOUR freedom of speech citing your own actions as precedent.

        • Charles

          You’re conflating all forms of authority together. Let’s step back to a point you avoided: why should a private university such as Yale not be allowed to police behavior on your campus, in the same way that a bar or office does?

          This is not a matter of arresting someone or charging them with a crime — THAT’S freedom of speech — it’s a matter of maintaining an environment that’s conducive to learning. If you’re a teacher, what do you do when an 18-year-old high schooler threatens a classmate? You shut that shit down.

          Racial slurs spray-painted on the sides of buildings aren’t just offensive; they create a threatening and disruptive environment. It’s not reasonable to expect a student of color to concentrate on chemistry when rumors are that the KKK is on campus.

          Moreover, your entire construal of this situation is a red herring. Have you read the demands being made by student protest groups? The right wing blogosphere has seized on some dumbasses who don’t know what the First Amendment is… but the protesters, by and large, and actually demanding increased awareness and representation.
          http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/here-are-the-demands-from-students-protesting-racism-at-51-colleges/

        • Kasimir Urbanski

          You’re arguing that if someone is disrupting the environment conducive to learning they should be silenced. Well, right now, NO ONE is ruining the environment conducive to learning more than the bratty entitled self-absorbed student protesters.

          They have disrupted classes and speeches/lectures, and special events.
          They have harassed students, acting as though they were a law to themselves.
          They have viciously attacked teachers and administrators trying to have them fired/blacklisted for expressing ‘wrong ideas’.
          They have gone as far as to threaten reporters with PHYSICAL VIOLENCE for trying to report what is really happening.

          By your logic, it should be just fine to remove their freedom of speech, in the name of making a ‘safe space’ for everyone they are attacking and whose lives they are trying to ruin.

        • Charles

          I’m not arguing what the school SHOULD do; I’m arguing what they have the RIGHT to do. Private universities can enforce rules against hate speech. Public universities can punish students for harassing or for threatening, as OU did earlier this year.

          Some student protesters have probably stepped over that line. If the school wanted to, it could expel them. But doing so would most likely escalate the situation.

          Schools would be wiser to sit down with these student groups and hear their demands: keeping better statistics of race-related incidents on campus, renaming mascots, and training professors to be sensitive to the situations of their students. These are low-cost measures which do not infringe upon anyone’s rights.

        • Kasimir Urbanski

          So let’s see how this works in your world: -dudes who physically threaten the wellbeing of journalists should be sat down and given whatever they want. Someone who says something like ‘all lives matter’ should be thrown out of school and have their careers and lives destroyed for Crimes against the Revolution?

          You’re a ridiculous joke of a human being. You refuse to get the fundamental point: one day, the tide will turn, and the erosion YOU made of free speech will let people you despise viciously repress black people, women, LGBT, etc. or just advocates for democracy (though I suspect the latter matters a lot less to you).

        • Charles

          Nobody is coming for your guns. Nobody is repealing the first amendment. Nobody is going to put you against the wall for thought crimes. You’re just threatened by people you disagree with exercising their rights… including the right to speak out to affect policy.

          There are people being shit on by the status quo, just as there always have been. Those on top are hostile to complaints, just as they always have been. So those at the bottom are turning to disruptive tactics, just like those that succeeded in the past, to demand safety and representation.

        • Kasimir Urbanski

          The “policy” they want to affect is FREE SPEECH. That affects us, it affects them (negatively, even if they’re way too spoiled, sheltered and naive to realize why), it affects everybody. Because it attacks the very foundations of western democracy.

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